Kudos & Kvetch: St. Mary Parish schools tax supported; personal story revealed

By: JEAN L. KAESS
With an election tomorrow, I could talk to you about the candidates for St. Mary Parish Sheriff. I could say a lot about that.

But I won’t.

I’ll keep that information to myself for now in the hope that retribution won’t be had, and information will continue to flow, through us to you, once the election is held.

I could talk to you about the parish council races, but that would be boring, and we’ve already discussed the parish president candidates.

Amendments are a mixed bag of nuts that I really don’t want to get into because my opinions don’t always agree with the official stance of this newspaper. Besides, who wants to read that many inches of copy about such boring nonsense?

I’m not going to talk about any statewide race because that’s just not my style. I like to talk about local politics.

That pretty much leaves us with the school board’s tax renewal proposition.

I know that can be boring stuff, but I promise I’m going to drop a little bombshell that you want to keep reading for, all the while supporting the property tax renewal.

Before I get started, in the interest of transparency, let me give you my St. Mary school system “pedigree,” such as it is.

Both my parents taught their entire careers in this system. My mom is retired, but my dad still is an active teacher. My parents met while teaching at Morgan City High School. I taught at MCHS. Four generations of my family now have graduated from MCHS. (And you wonder why I choose MCHS in Guessperts every week?)

Most of the years I have worked for this newspaper, education and the St. Mary Parish School Board have been my beat.

All of that being said, I am a professional at not caring one way or the other. What I mean by that is, it is our job as newspaper reporters to be unbiased.

This tax renewal is a good thing. I support it, and you should too.

For starters, it’s a renewal. It’s not something you’re going to miss in your paycheck. You’re already paying it at the end of the year and have been since 1988.

It generates $6.3 million annually for teacher pay and benefits. Now, this isn’t like the thing where we passed gaming to benefit education, and the legislature chipped away at it until it’s barely recognizable.

This money goes to the school system, and they use it for what it is intended to be used.

Without it, teachers will take an 11 percent pay cut across the board. Alternatively, 18 percent of teachers (equating to 127 positions) have to be laid off.

Do you know what a layoff is like?

Hint: Here’s that little bombshell, folks.

The St. Mary Parish School Board laid me off. Layoffs from the system happen very quietly in this parish.

It wasn’t because of money. They had plenty of that because they are, in fact, fiscally responsible.

It wasn’t because of job performance. That is called being fired.

It was because of declining student enrollment, and I wasn’t the only one. At the end of the 2008-09 school year, the school system “gods” in Centerville dictated that between two and four teachers be laid off at each high school. You know the old saying “last hired, first fired?” Equate it to a layoff, add a sprinkle of not being certified, and that’s the recipe that got me.

I could have been quiet about this, and I was going to until a comment concerning a lack of layoffs was made publicly.

Superintendent Donald Aguillard said in his letter to the editor published Oct. 12, “As a fiscally conservative governing board, the school system has been able to preserve student-based funding to prioritize classroom expenditures and avoid teacher layoffs or increases in class size.”

My year was not the only year this has happened.

Have you ever read or heard publicly that there were any layoffs of teachers? No. Do you know why? They do not announce such things in public meetings as have other nearby parishes. Such things do not look good, so they are kept quiet. Euphemisms are used in meetings. Some teachers are reassigned; others are not.

Was my layoff necessary? Perhaps. I really don’t know. I wasn’t privy to the internal workings of the Central Office Complex at the time, and I wasn’t working for the newspaper.

So, the point of all of this is that I’m calling a spade a spade. Don’t say there were never any layoffs when there were.

Here’s my other point: When it’s your family that has to collect unemployment, do you care whether it was because the board was fiscally responsible or because it was because of declining enrollment?

Don’t cheapen what we went through because it sounds good politically.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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